Providing help for construction workers suffering from mental health issues is a multi-faceted challenge in the UK, with the British Safety Council and others stepping up to help.
In partnership with the Health in Construction Leadership Group and its members in the construction and civil engineering industries, the British Safety Council, a founding partner of the mental health program Mates in Mind, is supporting the safety campaign organized by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) called "Stop. Make a Change."
The half-day stand down, scheduled for April 18, involves thousands of construction and civil engineering workers throughout the UK. The hope is that it will serve as an expression of the industry’s commitment to health and safety and, in particular, to four issues: fatigue, mental health, respiratory illness and plant safety.
The stand down, which is at the heart of the new campaign, is spearheaded by CECA and supported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as well as leading construction companies, such as Balfour Beatty and Skanska and clients, such as Thames Tideway and Heathrow Airport.
Many of the companies involved in the “Stop. Make a Change” campaign are among 260 organizations which have expressed interest in the Mates in Mind program. Mates in Mind was launched in January 2017 to raise awareness and understanding of mental health in the construction sector. The construction industry has 2.1 workers, and the program was developed in close partnership with leading British mental health charities. The purpose of Mates in Mind is to help the industry and workers to talk openly about mental health issues.
The British Safety Council currently is conducting the roll-out of the first stage – a 45-minute awareness training – testing and refining its content to the needs of the participating companies and the construction industry.
“The ‘Stop. Make a Change’ campaign is an excellent opportunity to review the progress that has been made in relation to key concerns for the construction industry, such as fatigue, mental health, respiratory illness and plant safety,” said Michael Whitmore, program lead for Mates in Mind. “These efforts have made Britain one of the safest places in the world to work, yet there is much more to be done.”
During the national half-day stand down, employers will be able to discuss their commitment to positive mental health, which is so crucial in the UK for an industry where workers are 10 times more likely to die as a result of suicide than from on-site accidents, said Whitmore. “For some, this will be the first opportunity to start a conversation about mental health, share their concerns and request help if necessary,” he added.
“Starting these conversations is what Mates in Mind awareness training is designed to do. This is the first, and often the most difficult, step towards breaking down the stigma around mental health and we are delighted that the industry is showing such enthusiastic support for the program.”